Spain is one of those destinations that will have you wanting to go back year after year. For decades, travellers have associated Spain with warm sandy beaches, a relaxed lifestyle, great shopping, inspirational art and artists, never before seen architecture and tasty Mediterranean food; and they are certainly not wrong about that! Spain is a wondrous land of timeless beauty where the old coexists with the new and where you will find the second-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites after Italy. Spain’s exotic characteristics and enormous diversity make it so appealing that Spain’s tourism industry has grown into the most successful of all European countries. Occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain shares borders with Portugal to the west and France in its northern corner, with the Mediterranean Sea gracing its southern and eastern shores. Spain also includes a number of popular nearby islands known as Majorca, Tenerife, Ibiza and Gran Canaria which make up the Balearic and Canary Islands and draw in hundreds of thousands of sun lovers and party seekers every year without fail.
Spain is complete with eight regions ranging from urban, rural and mountainous; and each is abundant in exciting cities and attractions that are definitely worth visiting during your getaway. The largest city and capital, Madrid, is a thriving location situated in the very heart of Spain. Art lovers can delve in the Museo Nacional Del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which are sure to please even those that know little about the world of art. Here you can see with your own eyes the masterpieces of some of the most rebellious and unmatched Spanish artists of all time, for example, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí as well as other legendary names such as Velázquez, Goya and El Greco which form the great triumvirate of Spanish painters. Another one of Spain’s most famous museums is the Frank Gehry’s excellent Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, an atmospheric old town and an established tourist location. For architecture head to Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, where you will be stunned by landmarks such as Antoni Gaudí’s triumphant Basilica of La Sagrada Familia or his enchanting Park Guell. Barcelona is also a very mountainous city so take the cable car up to Montjuic hill and Montserrat Mountain to complete your tour. Barcelona is also known for its flamboyant cultural life, nightclubs and beaches. The city of Valencia, in southeast Spain, is the country’s most forward-thinking city. It is here where the City of Science and Arts lies and contains several must-see buildings of plausible innovation. It is without a doubt a paradise for science geeks or simply those in search of a culture trip. Its most visited structure is that of the Principe Felipe Science Museum which has plenty in store to awaken anybody’s senses and curiosity. L’Oceanografic is also recommended and will get you a little closer to what swims in the waters of the Mediterranean. Adding on from all of this, Spain boasts one of the most famous and important pilgrimage routes of the Roman Catholic Church known as Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James and leads to the supposed resting place of St.James and the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia. You can also travel to Salamanca, in central Spain which is a bold ancient university town filled with historical architecture that includes Baroque and Renaissance buildings among fascinating museums like the Museo Art Noveau y Art Deco.
The country of Spain has a tremendous story to tell and much of its history can be interpreted through things such as roman ruins likes those found in Cadiz; cathedrals like that of the Seville Cathedral in Seville, plazas such as Plaza Mayor in Salamanca and Islamic architecture which is predominant in various towns within in Spain – the most famous being the Grand Mosque ‘Mezquita’ situated in Cordoba and the Palace-Fortress of Alhambra in Granada city, two of the world’s most exquisite Islamic monuments which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Art, architecture and history aside, there is nothing quite like an old-fashioned bullfight or a flamenco dance to sum up what Spain and its culture are all about – unique, passionate, exotic and fierce! Be a spectator during La Fiesta Brava ‘The Brave Festival’, Spain’s bullfighting season. Madrid’s Las Ventas arena is one of the best places to watch matadors risk their lives whilst taking on big black bulls. Pamplona city also has a well-known tradition that takes place during the July Festival of San Fermín known as ‘Running of the Bulls’ in which bulls are let loose in the crowded streets of the city centre – the objective, of course, is to run as fast as you can and get out of the way of the charging bulls. It may seem quite pointless but this tradition attracts thousands of Spaniards as well as curious tourists wanting to get in on some of the action every year! If it you’re not an adrenaline junkie, then a flamenco dance will certainly be more your style. Although Madrid has plenty of venues and bars that feature the flamenco style dance, the actual ‘City of Flamenco’ is, in fact, Andalusia in southern Spain and is where this famous folk-dance first originated. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by this sensual and ‘hot’ dance but also be moved by the sorrowful singing and the playing of the Spanish guitar in the background.
Many of Spain’s most important events and festivals are also what invite many tourists to this diverse destination. There are numerous dance festivals going on in urban cities like Madrid and Barcelona, religious festivals celebrating a city’s patron saint and some simply wacky but rib-tickling events to entertain you like La Tomatina in Valencia or Spain’s biggest Carnival in the Cadiz region. There are many festivals that celebrate some of the most important facets of Spanish culture, for example, bullfighting and flamenco and make for an exciting time to be in town.
In terms of leisure, Spain is a rich fairground of things to do. Spain is Europe’s top destination for those craving an enviable tan to hopefully make friends and colleagues jealous upon their return home. Spain boasts dozens of top location beaches that will make for the most relaxing holiday on the beach or a perfect honeymoon destination. The list of beaches in Spain to choose from is endless and what’s best is that there are plenty of hotels and restaurants lined up along the coastlines meaning you won’t ever have to stray too far from your deckchair.
Besides lush beaches, Spain also offers great skiing resorts. Take to the Sierra Nevada in the southern Andalusia region in the Granada and Almeria provinces. These magnificent mountain ranges offer you the highest mountains on the Iberian Peninsula and a memorable hiking or skiing holiday. Other natural ski runs include the Pyrenean range in northern Spain as well as the Cantabrian Mountains. One of the best hiking locations is Galicia in north-west Spain with its hilly landscape, low mountain ranges and rivers that run down gentle slopes or down harsh canyons such as the Sil river, Galicia’s second most important river after the Miño. Other exhilarating activities include canyoning, white water rafting and hydrospeed which you can experience in the canyons of the Pyrenees such as in the Noguera Pallaresa River of Catalonia, in Andorra or La Seu d’Urgell or perhaps you would prefer to go to one of Europe’s best conserved and ecological areas, the Cantabria region also in northern Spain. Diving kayaking, kitesurfing, windsurfing and stand up paddle (SUP) are other watersports that can be enjoyed in places like the coastal region of Costa Brava in the province of Girona. To sum up, the choices of outdoor activities in Spain are numerous. Not only ideal for some family bonding, these activities are great to help you unwind and say Adios to stress – another reason being why this Mediterranean jewel ranks high as one the most visited tourist destinations in the world.
We can’t finish without mentioning how important it is to discover Spanish cuisine during your getaway in Spain. Exotic flavours, comforting aromas and colourful are the words that best describe Spanish food. The Spanish have for many years experimented with foods and don’t let much go to waste. Known worldwide as classical Spanish delicacies, are dishes such as Tapas and Paella. Tapas, great for a social evening, are considered appetizers or finger foods and are usually ordered to help accompany a drink. Varieties are huge and have evolved over the years due to other cultures and outside influences. Tapas can be served hot or cold and can consist of a range of fish or meat delicacies served with olives, tomatoes, pickles, peppers and lots of other seasoned and marinated foods. Many Tapas are simply irresistible so don’t stick with just one kind, try as many as you can as you hop from bar to bar much like the Spaniards themselves. Paella, a delicious dish invented in Valencia is a main course meal with three known types – Valencian Paella (rice, chicken, rabbit, snails (optional), duck, butter beans, runner beans, artichoke, tomatoes, rosemary, paprika, saffron and garlic), seafood Paella (rice, a mixture of vegetables, normally cooked and served with seafood in the shell; mussels, lobster, cuttlefish, shrimp) and mixed Paella (mixture of seafood with rich chorizo sausages and tender chicken).
Why wait any longer? If you are in dire need of a holiday or maybe you just want to get out an experience some of the treasures the world has to offer, be sure to make Spain a must visit! Not many countries can offer sun, sea, skiing, shopping and sites quite like Spain. Decide where you want to stay and book your hotel now!